Wednesday With Words: Barometers of Society

I haven’t been reading a lot besides school books recently, but today’s quote is from a school book that I’m really enjoying. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy is an absolutely wonderful, thorough look at how to build a complete Christian worldview and incorporate it into your entire life—not just on Sundays. She also has a lot to say about the arts and worldviews in media, and as someone who reviews movies, TV shows, and other media every so often, this quote really caught my eye. I thought I’d share it with you all today.

Nancy Pearcy


Thanks for reading today’s Wednesday with Words! I know I’ve been saying this a lot, but I want to continue posting on this blog, even if it doesn’t end up being super consistent. To everyone who’s still reading, thank you. I know I haven’t been around a lot, but thanks for sticking with me.

See you again soon!

🙂

One Week in London: Part 4 (The Finale)

One Week in London Part 4


Day 6: Wednesday (Castles and Cathedrals)

No trip to England would be complete without a tour of an ancient castle. On Wednesday morning we made our way to Victoria Station to catch a morning train to Arundel, a beautiful little town in the south of England boasting a medieval castle. When we got off the train, it was pouring rain. Umbrellas up, we made our way down town towards the castle, which was on a little rise above the town. By now, the wind was blowing so hard that it kept flipping up the top of the umbrellas, rendering them mostly useless. I managed to angle mine like a shield against the wind, which helped a little, but we were both nearly blown off the stone bridge that ran over the river Arun. Wet and hungry, we piled into a little restaurant, where we were able to get some delicious traditional English breakfast items… for lunch.

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I would normally turn up my nose at runny eggs, as I tend to have issues with certain textures in food, but I was trying to be a more adventurous eater on this trip, and found to my surprise that the eggs were actually really good! The bacon, while it looked nothing like what we Americans would call bacon, was also delicious.

After finishing our lunches, we made our way all the way up the main street of the town, only to discover that we’d missed the entrance to the castle, and had to back track a bit. Our train trip and trudge through the rain turned out to be well worth it, however, because the castle was absolutely stunning. It has two parts: the medieval keep and a more modern part inhabited (for part of the year) by the family of the Duke of Norfolk. We were able to visit both parts of the castle, including some areas used by the family when they stay there.

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Approaching the castle (in the rain)

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Part of the view from the medieval keep

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A real lion skin in the more ‘modern’ (still very old) part of the castle

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When we emerged from the depths of the castle, the gloomy clouds had rolled away, leaving a beautiful sunny day behind. We took a little walk around the castle’s extensive grounds, before hurrying back to catch our train home.

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Arundel Castle in the sun


We’d put off our visit to Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, so today was our last chance to explore it. The line to get in wasn’t too long, and the visiting hours were extended on Wednesday, so we got inside in plenty of time and had a nice stroll around the Abbey. There were plenty of monuments and mementos to famous people, and plenty of memorials to those who had actually been buried there. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but I did get a few shots of the outside of the beautiful building before we headed home for the day.

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Day 7: Thursday (Museums, the Magna Charta, and Camden Market)

Thursday was our final day in London, and we were planning to pack in a lot. As with our entire trip thus far, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned…

We started our morning by visiting some Egyptian statues and mummies in the British Museum, and getting a glimpse of the famous Rosetta Stone. Surprisingly enough, the Museum allows photography, but there was a large group of excited tourists gathered around the stone’s big glass case, and we couldn’t even get close enough to really see it, much less snap a photo.

We took a leisurely stroll through the museum, stopping to examine various Grecian urns and artifacts, including a massive pot that had, apparently, once been used for burying people in. We also paid a quick visit to the Anglo-Saxon and Viking exhibit, where there were plenty of shields and helmets and ancient weapons to look at.

Our next museum was a bit smaller, but just as interesting. We took a short bus ride and walked a little ways up a street until we reached the Dickens Museum, which was inside a house where Charles Dickens had lived for three years. It was surreal to see the table at which Dickens had dined, the steep staircases he’d climbed and descended everyday, the desk where he’d sat.

After exploring every floor of that tall, narrow house, we hurried over to the British Library to peruse its collection of ancient illuminated manuscripts, massive old Bibles, letters from the likes of Queen Elizabeth I, and… handwritten Beatles lyrics. Yes, there was an entire section of the displays dedicated to the Beatles. I haven’t listened to a lot of the Beatles songs —I promise I mean to; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet— but it was actually really cool to see the original, handwritten lyrics by some of the most famous musicians on earth.

One of the big draws of the British Library was that it had an original copy of the Magna Carta. While most of the other exhibits were in a big open room, the Magna Charta had its own little chamber off to one side, making it seem extremely impressive and important (as it certainly is), but it was really a little bit of an anti-climax to go inside and see only a single piece of old parchment on display in its own room; just one of many copies sent out to noblemen across England. But, then again, maybe it isn’t always the showy things that make the biggest impact on history.

And maybe I’m just being a picky tourist.

It just so happened that we were in London on the same weekend everyone’s favorite British comedy YouTubers, Dan and Phil, had set up a pop-up shop in Camden Market. My lovely blogger friend Hannah introduced me to these YouTubers back in late 2017, and I thought it would be nice to pop down to Camden Town and pick up a little surprise for her from the shop. My mom also wanted to pay a visit to a market, so it was decided that we should finish off the day with a trip to Camden.

In order to even reach Camden Town, we had to take the dreadful Northern Line. The Northern Line is a Tube line deep, deep underground, traveling a narrow tunnel that snakes beneath London’s streets. Unlike with most lines, where there are two trains in one tunnel, here there was one tunnel for south-bound trains, and one tunnel for north-bound trains. We were very far underground, which added to the sense of claustrophobia, and the trains were extremely loud, being enclosed in such a small space with nowhere else for the noise to go. Every time a train arrived at a station, it sent a massive gust of air through the tunnels, creating huge underground winds.

We emerged from Camden Town station, and immediately ran into trouble. We weren’t exactly sure where Camden Market was actually held. I was pretty sure that the address has been ‘the Old Art Gallery’, but without internet there was no way we could check and make sure, or even find out where the Old Art Gallery was located. So, we just started walking.

When we finally found the marketplace, we weren’t even sure if we were in the right location. We spent nearly 45 minutes wandering around Camden Market, in and out of endless tiny shops, searching for the one pop-up we’d come to find. Finally, when we’d just about given up, I spotted red neon lights across a courtyard. I’d been on the look out for red and white lights, as somewhere it had been stated that they would be part of the decor of the pop-up shop, and I was absolutely thrilled to find that we’d reached it at last. It was less thrilling to realize that if we’d just gone in the opposite direction when we’d first entered the market, we would have reached the shop in about sixty seconds.

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The neon lights lead me here.

After snooping around in the shop for a bit and purchasing some possibly overpriced merchandise, we stopped to have some delicious English fish-and-chips from a friendly food vendor in the market.

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It was getting late now; too late for a boat ride in Little Venice, which we’d planned on doing, but not too late to get tickets for Thames river cruise to close out our trip. After heading back to central London on the dreaded Northern Line, we grabbed our tickets, which were included with our London Passes, and got in line for the boat. It took a pretty long time for the boat to actually show up, but the cruise was definitely worth it, and the perfect way to finish a wonderful week in London.

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Thanks for sticking with me to the end of my adventures in London! It’s been almost two months since I actually went on the trip, but I’ve finally finished writing it all up, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences. I know I haven’t been blogging regularly at all for the past two months, but now that this big project is over with I’m hoping I can get back in the groove again. Don’t hold your breath, though. 😛

See you again soon!

🙂

One Week In London: Part 2

London 2


Day 2: Saturday (Towers, Crypts, and Daleks)

My mom had to awaken me on Saturday morning so that we could get up, get dressed, and get out of the flat in time to fit in all of our itinerary, which included going over to Upton Park to visit the Who Shop. But more on that later. First, we had a lovely breakfast at a little cafe in Battersea called Caffettino’s.

Normally, I’m a little iffy about breakfast. I have to eat something, but unfortunately I often feel sick in the mornings, so it’s all I can do to get down a bit of toast or some yogurt. I was still feeling a little sick from the jet lag, but fortunately I was able to eat a croissant and drink a lovely cup of hot chocolate. For some reason, the hot chocolate in England is about ten times better than the stuff you find in America. It’s much less sweet, for one thing, so you can actually taste the chocolate part, and not just a lot of sugar. I had a lot of good hot chocolate while I was in England, but the best by far was the stuff at Caffettino’s. If you’re ever in the area, make sure you stop in there and try it!

After our light breakfast, we were off to visit the Tower of London.

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Unfortunately, part of the tower was covered in scaffolding, as were many landmarks we saw later —including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament— so that restoration could be done. But we were still able to wander around the Tower and its grounds, and hear the history of the tower from a knowledgeable Beefeater (one of the ceremonial Yeomen Warders of the Tower), who took us and some other tourists on a little trip through the grounds of the Tower. By the time the tour was over, the line to see the Crown Jewels had stretched across the grounds and out through one of the gates in the inner wall, so we opted to skip what would have probably been an hour-or-more wait, and grab some lunch before heading to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

We picked up sandwiches at a small shop next to the river, and sat down under the canopy to eat, where were were promptly canvassed for crumbs by a variety of birds. The birds of London have a habit of turning up in extremely odd places —inside of Paddington Station, for example. They are also fairly friendly, probably because they are around people all the time, and one tiny fellow actually leapt into the air in order to grab a piece of bread out of my hand.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was even bigger and more beautiful than I had imagined. On one side, there was a beautiful garden with fountains and statues, and we wandered around in there a bit before we were able to find the entrance, which was on the other side of the Cathedral entirely. There was a massive queue, and we had just resigned ourselves to another long wait when a woman came around, asking if anyone had the London Pass. We had each gotten a London Pass for our trip, as it provided prepaid and Fast Track access to a lot of the sights in London, for a lot less money than you would spend on individual tickets. It basically saved us that afternoon; if we’d had to wait in line, we wouldn’t have been able to get to the rest of our itinerary on time.

The inside of the Cathedral was absolutely stunning. There was the sort of deep hush you only get inside a church, and many people sat quietly in pews, contemplating the vaulted ceilings and many sculptures and statues that lined the walls. We saw one sculpture of Samuel Johnson, dressed in a Roman toga, with an indescribably hilarious, self-assured sort of expression on his face. I wish I could have gotten a photo, but there was a very strict ‘no photography’ policy in place at the Cathedral, so you will have to use your imagination. We went down into the crypt, which was full of many more ancient sculptures and statues, including some that had survived the Fire of London in 1666, and we also went up a little way to the second level, inside the dome. I would have liked to go all the way up, but it was such a long climb and there were no elevators, so we decided not to.

As we were at last looking for the exit, an invisible organ began to play somewhere in the Cathedral. The acoustics were magnificent; we could hear the piece beautifully from anywhere in the church, but we could not find the mysterious organ anywhere. At last, we emerged, slightly dazzled and very footsore, ready to take the tube to our final destination of the day.

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One of the statues in the garden outside St. Paul’s

We took a half-hour Tube ride out to Upton Park Station, quite a bit further from Central London than we’d been yet. We were looking for the Who Shop, a one-of-a-kind store for all things Doctor Who, with a special museum in the back containing original props and costumes from Doctor Who and other sci-fi shows. What with our lack of GPS (and my continual propensity to totally bungle maps and street names), we arrived five minutes after the museum part of the shop closed for the day. It was a little disappointing, but I was able to browse the plethora of nerdy items and books, and took home a sonic screwdriver and an awesome poster, as well as a photo with this lovely Dalek dressed up in the Fourth Doctor’s signature hat and crazy-colored scarf:

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Day 3: Sunday (Church, the Shard, and Battersea Park)

Mom had been able to find a Presbyterian Church, quite close to St. Paul’s, that seemed pretty doctrinaly sound, so we put on our Sunday clothes and took the Tube to Mansion House Station. It wasn’t too difficult to find the church. It was housed in a beautiful old Anglican building, complete with stained glass windows and a little gilded dome. The pastor was away that Sunday, so one of the elders preached a sermon about the ‘sin of silence’; how if Christians stay silent or help cover up the evil deeds of others, they are participating in those evil deeds. It was a spectacular sermon, and I’m very glad we were able to visit that lovely little church while we were there.

During some of our previous walks through this area of London, I’d noticed a sort of restaurant chain called Prét A Mangér, which seemed to have a shop on almost every corner. We were planning to try and find a pub that served traditional Sunday roast, but for the moment we decided to stop in and see what kind of food they had at Prét, instead of wandering around trying to find a pub.. Prét turned out to be a lovely little shop filled with delicious ready-to-eat food, and we had a light lunch there, deciding to get Sunday roast for dinner instead. If you’re ever in London, make sure you stop in at a Prét. Their food is really good, and, honestly, it’s one of the things I miss the most now that I’m back in the US.

After lunch, it was time for another walking expedition to find a strangely shaped glass building; we were going up the Shard, the tallest building in the UK, to take in the view of London.

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This glass building was a tad easier to find than the Walkie-Talkie, as it was a fairly straight route from where we were, and we could usually see it peaking up above even the tallest buildings. Mom had also saved several of the day’s routes to her phone, so we weren’t entirely without help.

Although absolutely dizzying, the view from the Shard was certainly spectacular. We took an elevator straight up, over 60 floors into the sky, and looked out through a couple inches of glass at the city spread out below. I mustered up the courage to take the extra flight of stairs up to the open air viewing deck on Floor 72. It wasn’t totally open —the glass walls went high enough that it wasn’t like you were going to fall off the building by accident— but it was definitely windy and definitely cold, and I didn’t spend too much longer in that precarious position.

After we descended from the skies, we got a little lost on our way to our bus stop. Mom had the route saved to her phone, but we couldn’t seem to find the right street anywhere. After wandering around for a while on tired feet and achy legs in the vicinity of London Bridge, we finally found our way to the bus stop and took a long ride back to our flat. We still didn’t know what to do about the Sunday roast, but before we tackled that problem, we were at least going to rest for a while.

We were able to put our sore feet up for a while, and the landlady was able to recommend a good pub at which to get Sunday roast, so it wasn’t long before we headed out once again for a hearty dinner of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and an enormous Yorkshire pudding.

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Before turning in, we went for a little stroll in Battersea Park, just as night was falling. Tired and footsore as we were, it was very enjoyable to walk under the enormous swaying trees and through the beautiful sub tropical garden. I had felt quite homesick the day before —almost wishing that the trip could be over— but now I felt totally at home.


I hope you enjoyed Part 2 of my adventures in London! Sorry this one’s a bit late. I had some evaluation tests this week, and it was also my birthday on the 24th, so I’ve been a bit busy, but I’ll try to get Part 3 done very soon. Thank you for your patience!

See you again soon.

🙂

Netflix Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2)

Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2

Things are about to get much, much worse… In a good way???


Before I say anything else, I should probably tell you that Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events may be one of the most faithful (and well done) book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. The casting, the characters and costumes and settings… so much of this series seems to match perfectly with what I saw in my mind as I read the books. Netflix is doing an amazing job, and I really respect them for that.

Although it has been a while since I read the books, from what I remember the show seems to stick pretty close to them. I do like that the creators of this show decided to flesh out VFD a lot more than it was in the books. I am very intrigued to see how everything works out in the end, and especially how they handle the final installment of the series, which I personally thought was a bit of a let down.

However, the nature of the books which have been adapted means that this show continues to get darker and darker with each episode, as more and more terrible things happen to the Baudelaire orphans, more clueless or downright awful guardians take custody of them, and Count Olaf hatches yet more schemes to steal their fortune. The Baudilaires themselves are also faced with increasingly difficult moral choices as they descend further into the winding mystery around VFD and try to just keep themselves alive and safe… or as safe as they can be in vile villages, horrible hospitals, and carnivorous carnivals. The visual tone of the show gets darker and darker along with the story, with each episode’s color scheme a little drabber than the last, and each new, terrifying location a little more grimy and dingy.

This show seems to be a lot darker than the books, but maybe that’s just because the acting is so strong, the visuals so awful and compelling, the dark humor so on point, that it really just drives home the atmosphere that the books were originally getting at. While I did find it a little creepy, and slightly disturbing in parts, I was very impressed with this season, and I’m excited to see how Netflix will handle the third one, and finale of this series of unfortunate events.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Can things get even worse for the Baudilaires? Oh, yes the can.”


Content note: This show is rated PG. However, this season does introduce Esme Squalor, Count Olaf’s evil girlfriend, who wears ridiculous, supposedly fashionable —and often rather revealing— clothing, and also sometimes makes remarks which could be taken as innuendo, or not, depending on how you look at it. These off-color remarks were one rather annoying addition to the show that I noticed, as I don’t remember anything of the kind in the books. There were also references to same-sex couples included in the dialogue a few times (The Quagmire triplets refer to their guardian and ‘her wife’, at one point a character mentions his two moms, etc.), another thing I don’t remember seeing  in the books. This show, especially the current season, is also quite dark, and a little depressing, so I would recommend caution for younger children, even if they’ve already read the books.


I hope you enjoyed my review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2! Have you read the books and/or seen the show? Do you prefer one over the other? What do you think about the show’s inclusion of more stuff about VFD? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

March Wrap Up Post (2018)

Wow this post is late…

Hello, everyone! Sorry I haven’t been able to get last month’s wrap up post out until now. March just sort of bled right into April and I didn’t even realize it! But here’s a quick rundown on what I’ve been up to in the last month, and what’s coming up.


March Wrap Up


Highlights:

  • My next writing project is moving forward. It’s very tempting for me to say that I got nothing done in March, but now that I really think about it, I have done some work on what will hopefully be my next book. I’m really trying to get back into the habit of writing something everyday, even if I don’t feel like it (which it seems like I never do). I’ve been really out of the loop recently, which may be why this post is so late, and I’m still struggling with motivation and finding the will power to just sit down and write something. But I’ve made some progress, which is fantastic, so there was at least one thing I accomplished this March.
  • I watched The Greatest ShowmanAll of Twitter has been raving about this musical for the past few months, and I finally got around to watching it. The soundtrack is amazing, and I wrote a review of the film, which you can find in the ‘Posts from February’ section below.
  • I’m getting more comfortable behind the wheel. While I may never be entirely comfortable with piloting a large, heavy object through narrow streets and around sharp corners, I am definitely improving. I was actually able to drive all the way home from the parking lot where we practice a few days ago, and I didn’t almost drive into a ditch like I did the first time, so I’ll take that as a good sign…

Posts from March 2018:


Looking Forward:

There are a lot of things happening this month. First of all, you should be seeing my review of the new season of A Series of Unfortunate Events on Friday. It technically should have been posted last Friday, but procrastination and health problems happened, so… yeah. There’s my excuse.

I’m going to be away for the rest of this week, starting tomorrow, because I’m going to the Great Homeschool Convention with some friends. I may be posting some photos/updates to my Twitter and Instagram, so if you’re interested, please go check those out.

I’m helping my lovely friend Daley Downing with the bookiversary of her debut novel! I’m going to be hosting a super special giveaway, starting on the 16th, so make sure you subscribe to my blog if you want to hear about that and get a chance to win some cool stuff.

There’s also one other exciting thing happening this April/May, but unfortunately I’m going to have to keep that a secret for now… 😉


Thanks for reading my March wrap up post! How was your March? Did you get to see any cool movies or shows? Is there anything exciting coming up in April for you? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

ipsy’s Monthly ‘Glam Bag’: Is It Worth It?

Introduction:

So, before everyone starts shouting at me in the comments, yes, I know this is not a beauty or style blog. But, as a youngish lady experimenting with style and all that good stuff, I’ve found that I really enjoy trying out makeup and different makeup looks every once in a while. Now, I’m not super knowledgeable about all the different products and techniques, and, let’s face it, makeup can be expensive, and even if something looks cool in the store, you probably don’t want to spend money on it if it might not work for you.

So in October or November of last year, I purchased three month’s worth of Glam Bags from a service called ipsy. ipsy is supposed to help people discover new makeup products by sending you five curated makeup and skincare samples or products every month for you to try out. Like I said, I’m not always confident in committing to different products, for fear of spending hard-earned money on something that will look horrible on me (which has happened before), so this seemed like the perfect solution. The bags are only ten dollars a month, so trying them out for three months seemed like a safe plan.

Now, the three months are over, and I’ve received all my ipsy products. There have been some I like, and some I don’t, and overall I have enjoyed the service, and might consider using it again sometime. But all this time, there’s been a little question nagging away at the back of my mind.

Is ipsy worth it?

How many of the individual items in each bag are, in fact, only sample sizes? How much would you pay for a full size item? When you break down the numbers and add everything up, factoring in what products you like and use, and what products you didn’t, are the ipsy Glam Bags really worth that $10 fee? I’ve had my suspicion from the beginning that ipsy might be just sending everyone cheap sample-size products. But is that really the case?

To find out, I’ve decided to do a little bit of sleuthing through online makeup retailers, Amazon, and ipsy itself in order to find out, so that I can definitively tell you whether or not ipsy is worth it…

Let’s dive right in!


December Glam Bag

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My December Glam Bag and its contents. Please excuse the low res photos; I’m hopefully going to get a new phone with an actually usable camera soon, but this is what I have to work with at the moment.

Products:

  • Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Daily Facial Scrub with Walnuts and Sugar: A cute little travel-sized exfoliating scrub. I already own a black sugar and activated charcoal scrub which I absolutely love, but this product is also very nice, if it does have a bit of a sticky consistency, and good for travel when you don’t want to lug a big bottle of scrub everywhere. I did find out that this is a sample size and contains 0.75 oz of product. The full size bottle contains 3 oz of product and retails for $9.99 at CVS.

  • Smashbox Cosmetics Be Legendary Lipstick in Legendary: I know Smashbox is a more expensive brand, and so it was neat to be able to try out one of their lipsticks without having to pay an arm and a leg. The lipstick is actually a rather bright, orange-red shade, which isn’t really my thing, but it lasted very well and didn’t fade when I wore it, even when I ate a couple of cookies, so it definitely stays put! Sample size, and the packaging does feel a little flimsy, but this weighs in at 2.4 grams, whereas the full size is 3 grams and retails for $21.00(!) on the Smashbox website.
  •  Pixie by Petra Mesmerizing  Mineral Duo in Orchid Ornament: Both these eyeshadows look gorgeous in the pan, but unfortunately the darker purply one doesn’t have very much pigment at all. I do love the champagne shade, however, and have been using it a lot. This is definitely my favorite product from this bag. Unfortunately, this little duo is an ipsy exclusive sample, so it was difficult to find the shadows on Pixi’s website in order to compare sizes and prices. I did find this Mesmerizing Mineral Palette in Plum Quartz, which appears to contain both these shades. The Mineral Duo is sample sized, and weighs in at 1.5 grams. The palette contains an additional four full-sized shadows, weighs in at 5.76 grams, and retails for  $12.00 on the Pixi website.
  • Luxie Beauty Precision Shader Onyx Brush 239: A simple, nice eyeshadow brush, meant for working shadow into the crease of the eyelid. Unfortunately, the ‘super soft’ synthetic bristles aren’t quite as soft as they seem, but the brush seems to work well with most of my shadows. The Onyx colored brush seems to be exclusive to ipsy, but the same 239 brush in Rose Gold retails for $14.00 on Luxie’s website.
  • Lottie London Lottie Lacquer in Riot: A gorgeous, slightly metallic blue nail polish. I love the color, love the finish, and next time I do my nails I’m definitely using this color. Unfortunately, this lovely shade appears to be an ipsy exclusive, but most of Lottie’s polishes retail for £5.99 on their website (or $8.33)

Was This Bag Worth It?

Just by looking at some of these prices, you can already see that I saved a bunch of money by paying the $10 for an ipsy bag instead of buy all of these products individually. In fact, paying for all these products individually would have cost me $65.32! (That’s factoring in the $12.00 for the whole Pixi palette.) Even cutting out the bright red lipstick and the scrub, which I probably wouldn’t buy of my own volition, I saved over $20.00 and got a couple of exclusive colors thrown in. With 3 out of 5 items that I enjoyed and would consider purchasing again, and several products from good quality, well known brands, it looks like ipsy is off to a good start…


January Glam Bag

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My January Glam Bag and all its contents.

Products:

  • Ciate London Fierce Flicks Liquid Eyeliner: The sad thing is that this is a super nice liquid felt tip liner, but… I just cannot for the life of me apply eyeliner properly. I’m probably going to be gifting this to one of my friends who loves experimenting with makeup, as she’ll get way more use out of it than I would. I was quite surprised to find that this full-sized liner retails for $19.00 on the Ciate London website.
  • Global Beauty Care Charcoal Wash Off Mask: love this mask. It’s a really nice, gentle cleansing mask for days when I just need that little skin pick-me-up, but don’t want to use a harsh scrub. I would definitely consider purchasing a full-size when I run out. This sample size sachet and contains a pretty generous 1 oz of product, which I have yet to run out of. The full 5 oz size retails for $9.99 on the Global Beauty Care website.
  •  Dirty Little Secret Cosmetics Eyeshadow in Sangria: This was probably one of my favorite items from this month’s bag. Sangria is  a super intense, shimmery pink shade, and while maybe not something I’d pick out for myself at the store, I’m glad I got to try it because I really like it! This full size eyeshadow single weighs in at 1.5 grams, and retails for $12.00 (!) on the DSL website.
  • Vasanti Cosmetics Professional Contour Eyeshadow Brush: A very nice, slim eyeshadow brush for blending and fluffing out color. All the brushes I received in my ipsy bags seem to be very good quality, and haven’t broken up or shed any hairs. This itty-bitty brush retails for a whopping $22.00 on the Vasanti website.
  • Hola Neon Velvet Liquid Lipstick in DF: This is the first liquid lipstick I’ve ever owned and… I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the color (it has odd brownish-purple undertones that just don’t look good on my face) and the lipstick itself goes on unpleasantly oily and dries down sticky. The formula also smells a bit like rubber or plastic, which gives me a headache, and the packaging feels super cheap. This is just a no-go for me. This product retails for $17.00 on the Hola Neon website.

Was This Bag Worth It?

There were several products in this bag that I love, and several that I just don’t like. However, it is interesting to note just how much this $10 bag was worth: it would have cost me $79.99 to purchase all these products myself. Some of these individual products do seem over priced, however, and there are only two that I would consider buying again; namely the DSL Eyeshadow in Sangria and the Charcoal Wash Off Mask from Global Beauty Care, meaning that I only saved about $12 (and probably more like $9, as the Charcoal Mask is only a sample size). Even though I enjoyed three of these products, and would consider purchasing two of them again, this definitely wasn’t my favorite bag.


February Glam Bag

photo-1-2.jpg

My February Glam Bag and all its contents.

Products:

  • Clinique Moisture Surge 72 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator: I was pretty excited about this product, but when it came I saw that it was a teeny-tiny little sample size tube, and felt a little disappointed. This product’s claims also seem kind of gimmicky; there was no way I could tell if it was still moisturizing my skin after 72 hours. The product is okay; it feels nice on the skin and sinks in quickly, but there’s no way it can replace my Nature’s Aid Skin Gel, which I use all the time and would highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice, natural moisturizer. The Clinique Hydrator is a 7 ml sample size. There are 4 different full-sized products, ranging from a 15 ml jar for $12.00 to a 75 ml jar for $52.50.
  • F. A. R. A. H. Brushes Large Angled Contour Brush 30F: A very cute, high quality brush with nice soft bristles. I don’t do a lot of contouring, and I’m not very good at it, but this brush honestly seems a little too round and fluffy to really lay down a precise line of contour. I think it might work a little better as a powder or blending brush. The bristles just aren’t packed tight enough to do a good job at contouring the face. This brush retails for $12.00 on the F. A. R. A. H. Brushes website.
  • Sand and Sky Brilliant Skin Pink Clay Mask: I’d actually been seeing this mask all over Instagram, and I was very excited to try it. Unfortunately, the little sample-size bottle arrived only half full of product. I’m not sure if this is intentional, or if it just wasn’t filled up quite enough by accident? Either way, I didn’t want to use the whole thing up by trying it out on my entire face, so I just used a bit on my nose, and actually saw immediate results. The mask dries quickly and washes off very easily, and left my nose smooth and brightened, and also got rid of a bunch of pesky little blackheads, which was very nice. I’m not sure if I’ll be purchasing a full size of this mask, as unfortunately it is quite expensive, but it was very nice to be able to try it out, even though I didn’t get a full tube. This sample size Pink Clay Mask contains 0.45 oz, while the full size jar contains 1.96 oz of product and retails for $49.00(!)
  • Beaute Basics Eyeshadow in Sweet Taffy: I was really excited about this eyeshadow, as it looks absolutely gorgeous in the pan. But it was somehow very difficult to get any color on the eyelid. I had to use a damp brush to get any results at all, and even then it doesn’t show up very much. I’m wondering if it would be better to pat this shadow on with your fingertips in order to get more color out of it? The formula is very smooth and buttery to the touch, but it just doesn’t have enough pigment on the eye when used with a brush. This eyeshadow single retails for $14.99 on Beaute Basics’ website.
  • Pink Pewter Lash But Not Least Dual Sided Mascara in Black: It’s honestly kind of hard for me to figure out what to say about this mascara, because there are things about it that I love, but also things that I really don’t like. Let’s start with the dual sided thing: I honestly think it’s a gimmick. Yes, the ‘curling mascara’ side does give my lashes a bit of a curl and a nice coat of color, but the ‘voluminous mascara’ side doesn’t really seem to do anything. The wands you use to apply the mascara are also really fat and kind of unwieldy, especially on the voluminous side, and I get little flakes of mascara on my eyelid near the lashline, which is kind of annoying. The mascara doesn’t transfer to my lower eyelids, though, which is a problem I have with my other mascara, but the formula on Pink Pewter’s product is just… inconsistent. Sometimes it’ll apply really nice on one eye, and terribly on the other. I think there are better products out there, and I wouldn’t repurchase this mascara, but it does okay, and the formula, when you can get it to work properly, is quite nice. This Lash But Not Least Mascara retails for $20.00 on the Pink Pewter website.

Was This Bag Worth It?

To get full-sizes of all the products in the bag, it would cost at least $107.99, and even more if you got a larger jar of the Clinique Hydrator. But, honestly, some of these products just seem very overpriced considering their quality, and the only thing I would even consider repurchasing would be the Pink Clay Mask, which is the most expensive thing on this list (and probably rightly so, because it does actually work). So while I do kind of like some of the things from this bag, I don’t like most of them enough to buy them again, which is… kind of disappointing. I did notice that ipsy listened to my feedback with this bag, and didn’t send me any lipstick or eyeliner, so it looks like they do listen to your reviews and ratings. However, the quality of some of the products, and the amount that ended up in the samples, leaves something to be desired.


Conclusion: Is ipsy Worth It?

From a purely monetary standpoint, ipsy’s $10 a month fee is absolutely worth it. I paid $30 for three months of Glam Bags, and received 15 product worth well over $200. In all honestly, I really expected ipsy to send cheap little samples from low-quality brands I’ve never heard of. I didn’t expect full-size products or anything from well-known brands like Smashbox or Sand and Sky. But ipsy really lives up to their promises. Nothing I received was worth less than $8, (except maybe for that tiny Clinique sample) and much of what I received I enjoyed and will continue using, even if I don’t end up repurchasing the item later on. While researching the costs of these items, I kept getting sticker-shock from just how much this makeup costs. You really have to wonder just where and how ipsy makes their money. Paying $10 for bags consistently worth over $50 just seems too good to be true, even if it isn’t.

But how much did I enjoy these bags? Was it worth it for me?

I don’t really know. The excitement and anticipation of receiving five new products every month is, of course, enjoyable, but there’s always that let down if what you get doesn’t work well for you. And I don’t think I would get ipsy all year round. If you want to treat yourself for a few months, or if you’re kind of new to makeup and want to try out a bunch of different things without having to spend tons of money on stuff you might not like, I would definitely recommend ipsy as an inexpensive way to do that. I may treat myself to one or two more bags sometime in a future, but I think it’s more of a ‘treat yourself’ thing than an ‘every month, all year round’ kind of thing.


Thanks for reading my little review of the ipsy monthly Glam Bags! Have you ever tried ipsy? Are you considering trying it in the future? Are you as shocked as I am at those crazy makeup prices??? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you all again soon!

🙂

Unpopular Opinions: Automation Is Not the Brave New Future We’ve Hoped For

Driverless cars. Cashier-less supermarkets. An automated world. This is the brave new future we’ve been promised. But is it as bright and beautiful as it claims to be?


Automation


Amazon (you know, that big website where you buy everything from your books to your clothes?) recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle. Sounds a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Amazon is perhaps the top online retailer, selling hundreds of thousands of products that are delivered to your home without you ever having to lift a finger. But now, they’ve opened a store.

There’s a catch, though, and you probably know it already. This is a store without cashiers. People can walk into the store, swipe in their phones, grab whatever items they desire, and walk out without ever interacting with another human being. Cameras track items and deduct the cost from the person’s bank account. No social skills required.

Sounds amazing, right? It’s so futuristic! The computers do everything. You can pop in, grab lunch, and be on your way in minutes. This is the way of the future.

And… what if it is? What if this is the future? What if, in not too many years, all stores are this way? No more cashiers. No more retail jobs. No more human faces you have to pretend to smile at and deal with just so that you can get home and eat your food in peace.

For years, we have dreamed of a fully automated future; self-driving hover cars, robots to pander to our every whim, whatever we want delivered right to us, no human interaction required. We have, dare I say it, been dreaming of a future where we don’t even have to interact with other people, where we are the most important thing in our own little worlds, where we can forget everything else and just satisfy our own wants in the most efficient and effortless way possible.

And if that’s the future, what happens to everyone else? 

You probably remember the first job you ever had. And, most likely, it was working behind a check out counter or somewhere in retail. This article says that the most common jobs are in retail or as a cashier. It also predicts that while everyone keeps saying human cashiers are on their way out, that probably won’t happen. ‘They won’t be getting replaced by robots anytime soon’, the writer says. But what if people’s jobs aren’t getting replaced by robots, just eliminated altogether?

The same thing is set to happen in the transportation industry, as more and more companies are working hard on self-driving cars that could leave taxi drivers, and even truckers, out of a job. And that’s the thing. With enough technology, we could eliminate entire sectors of jobs. That’s already happening. Computers are getting smarter and smarter every day. Office jobs can be done from home, without ever needing to see another person. How long until they’re completely eliminated?

Maybe the elimination of these repetitive jobs will drive humanity upward; encourage more people to create art or study philosophy, to get bigger, better paying jobs. But I don’t think so. And there is a huge problem with the concept of automation itself. It assumes that human contact is a bother, a nuisance, a hassle, something that should be done away with, something that causes error and discomfort and annoyance, something that nobody needs. We used to know the names and faces of the people who grew the food we ate. Then, we didn’t. We knew the people who sold or made our food. Until we didn’t. How long until all we know is the inside of our own homes, or our self driving cars, and the pleasant voices of our AI companions? How long until this human ‘nuisance’ is eliminated entirely?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m an introvert! That doesn’t sound too bad.” But it does. Oh, it does. Imagine drifting through an automated world that exists only to please you, to supply you with your favorite items automatically, without hassle. Imagine a world where you don’t speak to anybody outside of your own home, not even for thirty seconds while you check out your groceries, or for a couple of minutes on the bus or in the taxi or Uber. Imagine being cut off from everybody else, isolated from everything except the cheerful, fake voice inside your phone. Does that sound like good future? We’re already half way there. We can already glimpse it.

Do I think that this will be the future? I don’t know. I certainly hope not. We humans were made to have relationships with other humans. No man is an island, no matter how much it may seem like that nowadays. Let’s not take away what little interaction with the outside world we already have. Let’s not insulate ourselves from humanity. Let’s love our neighbors and not hide away from them. Let’s not dream of a future made only to serve ourselves.


Thank you so much for reading this very depressing post! I was just thinking a lot about automation, as it’s been in the news so much, and me and my family were discussing it a bit at dinner. What do you think? Will a fully automated future be good for society, or for people in general? Would you ride in a self-driving car? Would you shop at a cashier-less convenience store? Let’s chat in the comments! ^_^

See you again soon!


 

My (Belated) 2018 Goals

Okay.

I apologize.

In my ‘Best of 2017’ post, I said in the Looking Forward section that I had basically zero plans for 2018. For me, this is always the case. It’s the end of the old year and there’s a whole entire 365 days spread out in front of you and its all so bewildering and you’re like “lol wat i don’t even know like what am I supposed to do with all this time?????” I don’t know if anyone else struggles with this, but I always seem to have what I’m going to call ‘New Years paralysis’, as in for the first couple of weeks of the new year. Basically it feels like I’m just going through the motions and I feel totally bewildered and have absolutely zero plans to accomplish anything at all.

And then BAM! 2018 smacked me in the face with like eight million opportunities and goals and all that stuff, and here I am writing a belated ‘2018 goals’ post so that you, the collective internets, can hold me accountable when I recap all the slacking off I did at the end of the year.

Please enjoy this seemingly impossible (but probably barely adequate) list of goals.


2018 Goals

 


  • Publish Esmeralda’s Story. I’ve talked about this several times before, but I wrote a novelette set in the world of my first book, Behind Her Mask was Death, which features the backstory of one of the main characters. I really love this story, and I wanted to publish it around Christmas time last year, but what with sickness, poor preparation and, lets be honest, a lot of procrastination, that obviously didn’t happen. I’m hoping to publish it very soon, though, and I’ll let you know when that happens!

 

  • Write and revise at least one book. Recently, I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I should be. It started back in the fall when I forced myself to complete a 57,000 word first draft in less than a month, and ended up burning myself out. I am a very slow first drafter normally, and maybe trying to finish this project so quickly just wasn’t the right idea. Anyway, I ended up with a finished first draft, and actually wrote a bunch of the first draft of another book before the burnout caught up with me, and suddenly I looked around and for about two months I’d written absolutely nothing. I’m slowly starting to ease myself back into first drafting for another novel, a prequel to Behind Her Mask was Death that I hope to be at least 50,000 words at completion. I’d like to say that I’ll try to finish it and publish it this year, but we’ll see. I’m not always the best with sticking to the plan.

 

  • Get my driver’s license. Yeah. Yeah, I know. I should have at least started working on this by now. But I’ve been… procrastinating. Up until now I’ve been able to rely on my family to drive me everywhere, but I’d like to maybe get a second job, and sometimes it’s just difficult to get a bunch of different people to soccer practice and work and robotics meeting and whatever, especially when they’re all happening at the same time. So I’m studying up and hopefully I’ll be able to get my temporary license this month and have my full one by the end of the year.

 

  • Read more. Everyone who knows me would probably describe me as a voracious reader. And that’s true… sometimes. Or it used to be, anyway. But I honestly feel that I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I should within the past year or so. It probably has a lot to do with finally getting wi-fi in my room, which while it sounds amazing isn’t necessarily the best thing for your concentration. Sometimes I feel like I’m at my best when the computer is off and I’ve forgotten where I left my phone. But I really do want to read more, and I especially want to read more indie books. As an indie author, it’s probably a good idea to know the market and read other authors’ works, right? Yeah. And guess who had literally only ever read one indie book in her life right up until Christmas 2017? Yeah.

 

  • Make more artistic stuff. I used to sew all the time. I always had a project I was working on; a cute plushy from one fandom or another that it seemed like I needed in my life. Now? Ha. Nothing. But, to be honest, I’m the kind of person that has to have an inspiration or some kind of goal in mind before I start a project, and I just haven’t had any new ideas for plushies in a while. So at least I could be honing my drawing/painting/colored pencil skills, right? Nope. This is yet another area where I need to have inspiration, and the muse does not visit often. But, hopefully, I’ll try to do a few more paintings or drawings this year. (You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter if you’re interested in seeing any of my artistic endeavors.)

 

  • Embrace my emo side. You may think that I am already emo, but this isn’t even my final form. I dyed my hair the other day (say what????),  but I’m not done yet. Dangly chain earrings, my favorite black choker, cross necklace, pencil eyeliner (if I can ever figure out how to apply the stuff) and clothes in varying shades of black are all on hand. In the new year, I plan to embody all the best things about my two style icons: Josh Dun (brightly colored hair, eye-catching earrings and necklaces, smudgy eye makeup) and Dan “black-clothes-are-the-answer-to-everything” Howell (self-explanatory).
Style Icons

My style icons: Josh Dun of Twenty Øne Piløts and British Youtuber Dan Howell (better known as danisnotonfire).

Even if I don’t do the full emo look every day, at least I can enjoy being v emo inside, and all the issues that go along with that.

*smudges eyeliner and runs off to join the Black Parade*


Okay, back to the goals:

  • Procrastinate less. This is a big one. Basically all my problems are caused by procrastination, and most of them would be solved if I just sat down and did whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing (right now I am procrastinating math and Latin homework by writing this blog post). Maybe this is an impossible goal, but I hope to do my best to put down distractions and actually accomplish the task.

 

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. Kinda self explanatory, I guess. Get in shape, and all that. I’ve been doing a daily 10-minute Pilates workout, as I have a lot of back issues and pain and strengthening your core muscles can help alleviate this. I just need to buckle down and stop forgetting to do it or procrastinating my life away. I also want to get outside more and walk around the neighborhood or ride my bike, but the weather hasn’t been super cooperative recently, so…

 

  • Write more blog posts. Sometimes, I honestly just don’t know what to say. Weeks go by without a post. Some compassionate soul out there might be wondering if I’m dead (i’m not i’m just procrastinating again friend). I’m making it my goal this year to have at least one post per week, and hopefully more, unless of course I’m away or on an official hiatus or something. (So if you’re interested in getting sarcastic rants, cool quotes, movie and TV show reviews, and more sent right to your inbox, you can subscribe to this blog by email down below…)

And… that’s about it. Right now, it seems a bit like an impossible mountain, but I’m sure at the end of 2018 we’ll all look back on this list and laugh at how horribly I failed in completing anything.

In all seriousness, the best way to accomplish something is to have a good attitude about it, and then actually buckle down and just get it over with, and hopefully with that attitude, and with a lot of prayer and hard work and anti-procrastination methods, I can actually do something worthwhile this year. 😛


Thank you so much for reading this post! Sorry it’s a bit more sarcastic than normal. I’ve just been reevaluating my time-usage and it has come to my attention that I really do have a procrastination problem, so… yeah. Kind of being sarcastic at myself, if that makes any sense.

Talk to me, friend! What are your hopes and dreams for 2018? And does anyone else have trouble with this sort of ‘New Years paralysis’ I talked about at the beginning? Let’s chat in the comments below!

See you again soon!

🙂

The Best of 2017 (2017 Wrap Up Post)

Introduction:

2017 has finally wound to an end. It’s been a crazy year, but there have also been some pretty awesome moments, and I’ve discovered a few amazing things I’d like to share with you today, including books, movies, music, YouTube shows, and more! Scroll down to check out my ‘best of’ list and recommendations, as well as my end of the year wrap up!

DISCLAIMER: Just so you know, all opinions I express in this post are entirely my own. Nobody has bribed me, sent me free stuff, blackmailed me, kidnapped me, or hacked my blog to get me to say this stuff. I just love all these things, and I love sharing cool stuff with all my friends. I hope you enjoy the list!  😄


Best of 2017


Best Of:

Movies, TV, & YouTube

I have a difficult time making any real decisions, so for some of these categories there are multiple picks.

Best Film(s)

  • There honestly weren’t a ton of really awesome films that I got to see this year, so the selection I have to choose from for this category is relatively small. It’s honestly a bit of a tie between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Thor: RagnarokWhile I did like Spiderman: Homecoming, I enjoyed Ragnarok a little bit more, maybe because I’ve been looking forward to it for at least a year now. It certainly did not disappoint. And The Last Jedi far exceeded any expectations I’d had for a Star Wars film, so they’re honestly about equal, in my opinion. You can read my review for Thor or read my review for The Last Jedi, if you want to hear my more detailed thoughts about the films.

Best TV Show

  • Maybe this is a little too obvious, but my pick for best TV show of 2017 is Netflix’s Stranger Things. There is so much internet hype about this show, that if you have been anywhere online you can’t help but here about it. And the show certainly lives up to the hype! Thrills, chills, adventure, as well as fabulous acting and writing abound, and I am very excited to see where the show goes next! You can read my full review of both seasons here. Another Netflix original, their new adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, also gets an honorable mention. It was very well done, and I would love if we got another season, as I would like to see the story continue! You can read my review of that here.

Best YouTuber/YouTube Series

  • This award goes to The Game Theorists (and Film Theorists) for their exceptional year of theories! I just discovered the Theorist Crew late last year, and they have become my all time favorite YouTubers. While I love MatPat and his hilarious, well researched (if sometimes far fetched) theories about video games, movies and TV shows, I also want to give a shout out to Austin, the creator of The SCIENCE! which is another video game themed show that can be found on the Game Theorists’ channel. His more recent episodes, especially the ones about Halo and Hello Neighbor, are chock full of cool facts, equations, and all around awesome science stuff. If you love video games (or movies) and like far-fetched theories and science-y weirdness, I would highly recommend checking out these two channels.

Best YouTube Red Original

  • I got a free trial of YouTube Red this year, mostly to watch the Game Theorists’ YouTube Red original show. While I highly enjoyed MatPat’s Game Lab, which is a real-life continuation of Game Theory, where they tested stuff from games in real life (such as playing soccer with cars, as shown in Rocket League, or trying to survive Five Nights at Freddie’s IRL) I would have to say that my favorite YouTube Red series was actually Mind Field, which is hosted by Micheal Stevens of Vsauce. Mind Field explores the science of psychology, particularly looking at the reasons why human beings behave the way they do, while also exploring a few other fascinating psychological concepts, such as isolation and its effect on the brain, or how people would respond in real life to the infamous Trolley Problem. While as a Christian I don’t agree with everything Stevens says, Mind Field is still a fascinating exploration of some of the science behind our behavior, and I would highly recommend that you check out the first episode of the show, which is available for free on the Vsauce channel.

Music

Once again, there are multiple categories here, and once again, I am an indecisive bean who had multiple picks for one of them…

Best Song

  • There is literally no contest here. The best song of 2017 is Machine by MisterWives. I was originally introduced to this indie pop/alternative band through Twenty One Pilots. MisterWives opened for them during the Quiet is Violent tour, and during the TØP hiatus I’ve been trying to find new music to listen to, often by looking up bands that have toured with them. I only like a few songs by the band, but Machine is a definite standout. Rebellious, rollicking, with lyrics that offer a candid take on the modern music industry (my personal interpretation of the song), it’s just an awesome piece of music, and you should probably have it somewhere on your  playlist. Give it a listen right here:

 

Best Album(s)

Two albums released in 2017 really stood out to me, one of them from an old favorite, and one from an artist totally new to me.

  • Canadian singer/songwriter Lights’ new album Skin & Earth is by far one of her best albums to date, and I have no hesitation in naming it as one of the best albums of the year. Savage, which is one of my favorite songs off the album, is totally unlike anything Lights has done before. Her vocals and lyrics are always on point, but there is a very raw and real anger coming through in this song that I really love. Savage also features Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots on drums, which is pretty awesome, as it’s basically a collaboration between two of my favorite artists ever.
  • The second album is After Laughter by alternative rock/pop punk band Paramore. I just discovered the band this year, and I am loving their awesome, kind of retro-style rock music. After Laughter has a good mix of slower, quieter songs, and fast, exciting songs that just make you want to get up and dance. Probably my favorite song off the album is Pool, although Hard Times and Fake Happy are also fantastic.

Books

There were several books I read this year that really got my attention, and they all deserve mentions in this post.

  • The first was Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. It was a heartbreaking, very real story inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement about a girl who witnesses her best friend get shot by a policeman when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. The book has some strong language and innuendo, but the raw, honest story, told through the eyes of a girl who lives with discrimination and fear of police violence every day, more than makes up for any of that. It is a very important book, especially for this moment in time, and I am very glad that I got the chance to read it.
  • Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt is an intense thriller that delivers all the feels. Brianna’s writing kept me right at the edge of my seat throughout the entire book, and I can hardly wait for the sequel, which should be arriving sometime next year. The story follows Quinn Rogers, a fearless assassin whose past is starting to catch up with her. The book is fairly dark and violent, but there are Christian themes of redemption, as well as a bit of hilarious humor to lighten the mood, and all in all it was just a fantastic read. (I need to read it again soon!) You can check out my full review over on Goodreads.
  • Finally, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia more than deserves an honorable mention. This was a bittersweet exploration of fandom, online friendships, and anonymity. I was very excited about this book, and it did not disappoint. You can read my review over on Goodreads if you’re interested in my thoughts.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few things that didn’t really fit into any of the other categories, but which I thought really deserved to be mentioned in this post.

Secret Midnight Press

  • Secret Midnight Press is an independent publishing company and curiosity brand created by authors Ashley Dun and Jesse Cale, and based in Columbus, Ohio. They publish emotional poetry books, go on book tours with artists like Tessa Violet and GiveMeMotion, and create special seasonal boxes full of books and goodies. I just got Ashley’s book Smoke Signals (burn this) for Christmas (you can check out my review on Goodreads, if you like), and I have tickets to their January show in Columbus, which is also very exciting. They strive to create a safe space for people to express their feelings, and to provide hope to others who are struggling with mental illnesses like depression, or with difficult emotions and circumstances. Above all, they try to stay creative and curious about life. Ashley’s poetry is gorgeous, and I hope to be getting some of their other books soon. I also think that Secret Midnight Press will be a project that I continue to support for years to come, so I thought they deserved a mention on this list
  • Visit the Secret Midnight Press Website.

goodDYEyoung

  • goodDYEyoung is another independent company I’m happy to be able to support. They create vegan, cruelty-free, safe hair dye products in bright , beautiful colors, as well as providing temporary hair color products as well. If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I dyed a bit of my hair using their purple color. I used it straight on my hair, without any bleach, and while it colored my natural hair pretty well, I’m planning to get some of my hair bleached sometime in January, and dye it again. Their semi-permanent colors are PPD free, meaning no nasty chemicals all over your head, and easily mixable so you can get exactly the shade you want. The dye also had natural conditioning agents, leaving your hair silky-smooth and brightly colored. I would highly recommend you check out goodDYEyoung if you’re thinking about dying your hair!
  • Visit the goodDYEyoung website.

The Bright Eyes Project

  • Created by Aimee Meester, the Bright Eyes Project Podcast is a creepy sci-fi adventure taking you to fantastical spaceships, strange purple planets, the depths of space, and more! Complete with enough aliens, conspiracy, mysterious disappearances  and cliffhangers to drive anyone crazy (*cough, cough* we need the next episode, Aimee *cough, cough*), Bright Eyes is perfect for any sci-fi lover, whether you’re completely new to the fiction podcast format (like me!) or are a long time listener.
  • Check out the Bright Eyes Project.

Personal Highlights

  • I completed the first draft of Book 1 of my super secret sci-fi project, and wrote over 30,000 words of Book 2… and then promptly got stuck. I’m still trying to figure out where to go next. I’m really excited about this project, but I’m just a bit stuck on it right now.
  • I wrote over 30 poems, which is very exciting. I used to hate poetry, but then I took most of a poetry course (I never actually finished it… :/) which made me super excited to try writing my own poems! I write in mostly rhyming verse, but I’ve experimented a lot with free verse as well. I basically have a whole book of poems now, but I don’t know if I will actually publish it. We’ll see!
  • I published my second book this year! The Tangle was released in both paperback and ebook formats on November 4th this year, after being run as a serial novel on Channillo.com. It’s a paranormal suspense novel, which has absolutely nothing to do with my first book, Behind Her Mask was Death (several people have been confused about this) and you can pick up a copy over on Amazon, if you’re interested. 🙂
  • My blog is officially more than a year old! I totally missed my blogaversary, which happened back in April or May, I believe, but I have now been blogging for over a year. I wrote a total of 70 posts this year, and I hope to write even more in 2018!

Looking Forward

I may have mentioned at some point or other that I was planning to release a novellette set in the world of Behind Her Mask was Death this December. Well, obviously, that didn’t actually happen. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish working on the book and getting feedback on it until a couple of days ago, so I will probably publish it sometime in early 2018.

Other than that, I actually don’t have a ton of plans for 2018. I’ll keep working on all my in-progress projects (of which there are a great deal…) and perhaps we’ll see another book at some point, but I don’t know. I’m still struggling with my super secret sci-fi project, so I’m not sure what will happen with that. We’ll just have to wait and see!


Thanks so much for reading my end of the year recommendations and wrap up! I hope you’ll check out a couple of the things on this list, and that your 2017 was a blessed and lovely year. See you in 2018!

🙂

Who We Are (A Guest Post By Julia Vanlandingham)

Who We Are

Hey everyone! My best friend Julia wrote an amazing essay which I posted on here a few months back, and… she’s done it again! I hope you enjoy this awesome guest essay. 🙂


Who are you? It’s an easy question, right? So simple: Who are you? My answer to this question most of the time sounds something like this, “I’m Julia, I’m 17 years old. I have four sisters and one brother. I also have one brother-in-law, one sister-in-law, and one baby niece. I LOVE mathematics, but I don’t like writing. I’m not that good at writing, because I have a very mathematical brain.” That may describe some aspects of me (some incorrectly, but we’ll get to that later), but does this answer really say who I am? I think not. This description say my name, my age, and my profession (or projected profession). This describes how others perceive me on my surface, but not really truly who I am.

The things we are passionate about, the activities and people we love, the experiences we have had: these are the things that shape us. However, what does that really mean? It means that as we grow older we change. The friends we have and the environment we live in will shape how we talk and act. The activities we participate in will either spark our interest in a certain field or scorch it. The people we love will change us in many ways. Whether it be that you pick your clothes up off the floor for them, or you mow the lawn everyday for them, it is a deviation from your normal behavior. So, people and events shape us, but is that what defines our identity? Are we simply the sum of all our actions?

Oftentimes we describe who we are based on what we do or what other people have told us we are. As an example, my whole life I have been told I was a bad writer. Now, let’s get something straight, at one point in time I was very bad at writing, but I worked hard and I have changed that. So, I always thought of myself as a bad writer. I thought that was one of the things that defined who I was. The longer I was told this, the more and more it was engrained in my mind that was me: Julia, the mathematician who can’t write.

I think that, in this case, the sum of all the parts is so much less than the whole. So, what is missing, what makes us a whole and not simply a sum of actions? Well, the answer is simple, but also so very hard to see at times: God. The missing factor is the Lord. This is what makes us who we are really, this is what defines us. First and foremost we are a child of the King. So, as I describe myself the biggest and most important part of who I am is not that I am a mathematician or that I have a big family, or that I once was not good a writing. It is that I have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I have lived, died and been risen with him, and that is what makes me who I am.

So, we are not simply defined as what we do or who we know, there is so much more to each and every one of us. Oftentimes we do not take the time to get to know people deeply, to really get to know who they are. This leads us to see them as the sum of their actions. Often this can lead to misconceptions about people, and sometimes it can hurt that person deeply for a long time. When someone is told repeatedly that a certain characteristic defines them, they will eventually begin to believe it. They will start to tell themselves the same thing, and they may believe that is who they are. Once someone has told themselves that this thing defines them for long enough, it is hard to go back. It leaves a scar. One that most people can’t even see. One that maybe the person can’t even see themselves. It takes a long time and much help to see that this doesn’t define them.

So, whatever it is that you have been told defines you. Whatever you have told yourself defines you. Whatever you think you are bad at and that you just can not do that thing and it is going to hold you back. Forget it. That is not you. Do not let anyone else tell you who you are. Strive everyday to live your identity in Christ, the only thing that can never be taken from you.


I hope you enjoyed this amazing guest post! What are some ways we could learn to shape our identities in Christ? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon. 🙂